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Indian art boom inspires bigger canvas for galleries

By Pavan Lall
March 26, 2023 13:07 IST
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The recent India Art Fair in New Delhi generated greater in­t­erest than before in local contemporary artists among a growing cohort of Indian collectors, including millennials.


Image used for representative purpose only. A visitor walks past a painting of Tyeb Mehta's Mahisasura (C) during a preview of Christie's first art auction in New Delhi December 6, 2013. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

But growth in Indian art is not restricted to that alone.

This year saw 91 exhibitors, a much higher number than 63 in the previous edition — indicating a flourishing market.

While live auction sales we­re largely suspended during Q2 of 2020 due to Covid-19 precautions, global fine art auctioneer Christie’s says online-only sales were up 262 per cent in 2020 to $311 million), marking a record total for the channel.


In 2021, online auction sales continued to grow, up 43 per cent to record $445 million with increase in average lot value and by 2022 online sales became a norm.

Total sales for Christie’s grew from a $7.1-billion rebound in 2021 to a record $8.4 billion in 2022, making it the highest annual sales figure in art market history.

In India, there are barely a dozen private art mu­seums, experts say.

In cont­r­ast, China boasts around 2,000 privately held museums, according to government data.

And yet, a slow change is afoot.

Abhishek Poddar, founder and trustee of the newly op­e­n­ed 44,000 square feet Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru, says the venue is a space to enjoy art without it being necessarily commercial.

MAP has a café, library, aud­itorium, gift centre, mem­bers’ lounge and a classroom centre.

And a technology centre has been in the planning for a few years now.

Poddar says the museum will generate interest in the arts for the sake of education, making it relevant for a wider audience.

It is supported by a team of over 100 people and funded by collaborative corporates, high networth individuals and foundations.

When a country does well economically people take interest in art — and that has happened in many nati­ons, Poddar says.

“The Indian art wo­­r­ld is rather shallow with most looking at only a few na­m­es in every auction or conver­s­ation: a sign that it is yet to mature.”

Some galleries are also expa­nding. The Delhi Art Gall­ery (DAG), for example, rece­ntly moved to new digs in Jan­path.

Its chief executive officer, Ashi­sh Anand, says: “Our new gallery is twice as large as the previous one at The Claridges, and has an independent terrace for hospitality.

"The typical DAG exhibition is extensive, necessitating larger spaces, whi­le also allowing the flexibility of hosting different exhibi­tions simultaneously since galleries are spread over two floors.”

Anand also opened two ad­jacent galleries last year at the Taj Mahal Palace in Colaba, Mumbai.

“We registered grow­th of 40 per cent compounded over the past two years.”

DAG is looking to branch out of India and is also planning a single-artist museum in Kolkata later this year.

“We are looking at a much lar­ger space in New York, wh­ich may see its launch this year in fall/winter.

"Dubai and Lond­on remain territories of const­ant interest, too,” adds Anand.

The largest art museum is being planned by collector Ki­ran Nadar whose Kiran Nadar Museum of Art — a stand-alone building — has been designed by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Ad­jaye.

At around 1 million square feet, the facility is expected to be one of Asia’s largest.

It will be launched in New Delhi in May.

Spaces are not dictated by size alone.

Dinesh Vazirani, who runs Saffronart auction house, says he and his wife are scouting the city for a 10,000 sq ft facility to exhibit around 50 pieces in a private museum.

“The private museum is not hard to create and as long as it allows people to enter and enjoy art without being intimidated, that’s going to be good for the industry.”

For Indian art galleries, it’s about striding ahead — a step at a time.

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Pavan Lall
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